Mark Jordan, head chef, The Atlantic Hotel

The Staff Canteen
Mark Jordan

Mark Jordan discusses his role as Head Chef at Ocean at The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey and his own inspirations with regards to pursuing a career as a Chef.

Name: Mark Jordan

Role: Head Chef

Place of work: Ocean at The Atlantic Hotel, Jersey

Bio: Mark Jordan has spent over three decades in the industry, working with some of the biggest names in cookery before becoming a world-renowned Chef in his own right. Starting his career as a schoolboy in Keith Floyd’s kitchen, it was his work with Jean-Christophe Novelli that brought Mark into the spotlight. Mark joined the Ocean Restaurant at the Atlantic Hotel in July 2004, and has remained as Executive Head Chef since; bringing it to Michelin-star standard in 2007. His latest venture, the more relaxed Mark Jordan at the Beach, opened in St Aubin’s Bay in 2011 and quickly received a Michelin Bib Gourmand award and praise from the Good Food Guide.

Follow Mark on Twitter: @_markjordan

How many years’ experience does someone need to progress to the top level of the industry?

There are plenty of young guns around that it seems have only been around for two or three years yet somehow found a niche and got to the top, but these are few and far between. As a general rule of thumb going from a basic Commis Chef to a Head Chef can be between fifteen and twenty years.

It’s not necessarily your age, it’s what you learn. If you’re able to learn, be creative and know about things quickly, you can become a Head Chef earlier but generally, you need to be fully rounded before you can take on a Head Chef role. At the end of the day when you do become a Head Chef you’ll need to be able to answer people that ask 'What’s this, Chef?’ or ‘What’s that, Chef?’.

Who are the key Chefs and restaurants that someone should be speaking to and trying to gain experience with?

 Every kitchen you go to you learn something different, so there’s not one kitchen where you will learn everything. You could go to one kitchen but then you’ll only learn that one style. 

 For anyone entering the trade, I suggest you do a year to a year and a half at each place and at different places from large-scale hotels, restaurants to pubs; so that you become well-rounded.

 You see so many guys that have spent all their lives in one kitchen - they start as a Commis Chef and they end up being head Chefs after fifteen years but they don’t know any other way or any other kitchen. That’s very one-dimensional; I say to my Commis Chefs I’ll keep you for a year and a half and then I'll advise for them to move on. It's the same for the Chefs de Partie - a year and a half to two years because they need to get as much experience as possible and you can only do that by moving through different kitchens.

What are you looking for on a CV or in an interview if someone was applying to work with you?

I interview people a lot and I have more trouble with candidates who come with the best CVs in the world because they only seem to be linked to the places that they’re working. There was a Romanian guy I had two years ago, who only left me last month; he was a carpenter in Romania and had his own company. He came to Jersey but couldn’t get a job because he didn’t have the five years’ residency required, so I talked to him and thought, this guy had his carpentry business and that’s all about doing right angles and precise measurements. I thought ‘I need someone on larder, cutting terrines straight which

I basically interviewed him because of that; I knew there’d be something in him and lo and behold he was two years with me and became a fantastic Chef.

It’s not always about all the places people have worked at, it’s about seeing that they have a spark; somebody that’s got a skill. Out of ten Chefs, I will give them ten bunches of chives and I guarantee there will be two or three that will cut the chives perfectly but the rest will be hashed. It’s a simple test but when you went for an interview with Raymond Blanc he used to ask you to season water. It's a simple thing but you can tell just by that one thing if somebody has a talent for flavour.

That’s not always something you can tell from skimming a CV.

Exactly, my first impression means a lot to me. If I get on with the guy, in the first few minutes, I know we can work well together. I’ve had people who have turned up with sunglasses on, I asked them to take their glasses off and he had a pair of black eyes. I ask why and it’s ‘Oh, I fought with my last boss’!

Primarily they have really good CVs but it’s those that don’t really have a fantastic background but have that talent; they just haven’t been given a chance. I was given a chance when I was fifteen with Floydy (Keith Floyd) and if he hadn’t given me a chance I may well have been doing something completely different.

What would be the best way for a young Chef to get themselves noticed as a positive contribution in the kitchen?

 Having that willingness to learn and to question. Don’t be a wilting weed in the background, in a kitchen you need to make yourself known - be assertive and be confident.

 You want the Chefs to be able to know you so go up to them and ask  ‘What’s that fish, Chef?’. It doesn’t matter what it is, it could be a simple thing but it lets them know you’re being pro-active and that you’re willing to learn. I’ve had people who came into my kitchen and never said anything, they don’t ask about the food or anything; you give them a job to do and they just do it. It’s frustrating because there’s no pro-activeness about it. For somebody to stand out they must have that willingness to learn, to communicate and show a passion. Ask questions and be assertive - people like that go a long way.

What are your ultimate top five tips for someone looking to start a career in the industry?

1. One of the biggest things for anybody coming into the trade is a willingness to learn. They need to be mentally strong and ready to sacrifice a lot of their own personal time because being a Chef does mean that. That’s no denying that you’ll work split shifts and you’ll work long hours, so you need to be willing to commit to working evenings,
 weekends, Christmas and bank holidays.

2. You need to be sure in your head about your goals and where you want to be. Do you aspire to open your


own restaurant, do you aspire to have a Michelin star, etc? If you don’t have any goals you can get wrapped up in this middle run of Chefs that don’t get anywhere.

3. Huge amounts of passion. Without passion, you’ll be swallowed up and will just trudge from one day to the next. Passion is what actually gets you through it; passion for learning, for developing, to experience new things and to travel.

4. This job is all about being able to adapt. Chefs are the most adaptable people you can get, they can adapt to all sorts of things, foreign kitchens, new ideas and new regimes for example. That might sound like a simple task but it’s not.

5. Just be willing to work hard.

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Editor 30th March 2017

Mark Jordan, head chef, The Atlantic Hotel